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FirstBank Hosts FinTech Summit, Edition Four, Calls for Activation of Vibrant Ecosystem

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By Eric Elezuo

Nigeria’s leading financial institution and financial inclusion services provider, FirstBank of Nigeria Limited, has successfully held the 2020 edition of its annual FinTech Summit, which is also the fourth in the series.

The summit, which held via virtual, had about 12, 000 participants in attendance, and featured prominent innovator and Chief Executive Officer, Love and Magic, Chinedu Echeruo as keynote speaker with other professionals including the Director, Payments System Management Department, Musa Itopa Jimoh; the Executive Director, Technology & Operations, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System Plc (NIBSS), forming a high profile panel of discussants.

Also on the panel were the duo of the Group Executive, Technology & Services, Callistus Obetta, and Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products,  Chuma Ezirim, who represented FirstBank.

In his opening speech, the Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank Nigeria Limited, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, reiterated that FinTech industry is currently the fastest growing sector within Nigeria, and is mostly run by a sizable number of young entrepreneurs, stressing that FirstBank has been positioned as the FinTech partner of choice having established relationships with companies like PiggyVest, Terragon, VoguePay and PayStack.

He noted that the bank’s rating has soared with its digital payment channels and has remained in the forefront of providing financial inclusion solutions across board and round the clock with it’s  FirstMobile app, USSD (*894#) and FirstMonie, with the popular Firstmonie Agent Banking Network.

“FirstBank has become the foremost financial inclusion solutions provider with over 9 million USSD users, processing over 200 million transactions to date. Also, with more than 60,000 Firstmonie Agent Banking locations we have to date processed over 320 million customer transactions worth over NGN6 Trillion on the FirstMonie Agent Network as at July 2020, further cementing our leadership in the Agency Banking space,” Adeduntan said.

He recollected that the bank has picked awards after awards with the FirstMobile App, which was “awarded the Best Mobile Banking App in Nigeria in 2019 by the UK-based Global Business Outlook.”

Rather than mourning the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, Adeduntan remarked that the bank has leveraged on the scourge to become more innovative in providing services for the benefit of the customers

“The sudden emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic era has provided a ready canvas for stretching our Fintech readiness and exploits, and I am happy to note that, once again, FirstBank has been demonstrating outstanding preparedness in this all-important space.

“Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has become a catalyst for the accelerated technology and digital transformation that we are witnessing across so many industries and areas of human endeavour,” he said.

Speaking on the theme “How Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence will Disrupt FinTech in Nigeria” the keynote speaker, Echeruo, who is a product of Kings College, Lagos and Harvard Business School, with virtual descriptions, informed that one can solve any problem if he puts his mind to it. He noted that the “use of artificial intelligence to personalise and deepen customer experience, grow new market opportunities with lower cost blockchain model” will greatly improve the culture of innovation.

He pointed out that building and activating vibrant ecosystem are basically the outcome of inculcating blockchain and artificial intelligence in FinTech. He advised corporate bodies to open organisation’s ecosystem and recreate from the outside to the inside.

Responding, FirstBank’s Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, Chuma Ezirim, who represented FirstBank in the panel, and spoke on the sub-theme, “How Current Trends in Artificial Intelligence Are Impacting Business Product Development in FirstBank”, noted that the bank is a technology company offering financial services, but not in any way usurping another’s duties.

Ezirim was also quick to point out that FirstBank processes over 90 customer initiated transactions per second only on digital channels while acknowledging that the bank is poised re-architect its system and attract the right skills from within and outside.

Concluding his presentation, he invited stakeholders to partner with the bank, noting that “we believe big data and AI will bring upward the revenue of this country…”

In his remarks, Aminu Maida, who spoke on Industry Infrastructure to Support New Development in the Financial Industry, acknowledged the need for synergy while advising that the way out is “leveraging on artificial intelligence, leveraging on dynamic machine learning that can go into the environment and adapt in relation to human capacity.”

Other speakers who lent their voices to the viability of artificial intelligence towards creating and activating a vibrant ecosystem included Callistus Obetta, who was of the view that there is the need to build people who will in turn build technologies.

“Our realisation that the effectiveness of Artificial Intelligence is determined by data quality available on the platform and this is beyond the structured data in the bank,” he said.

Representing Okra, Fara Ashiri Jituboh, who spoke on the theme Unlock the Power of AI, and Musa Jimoh, agreed that blockchain and artificial intelligence are souls of FinTech.

In his closing remarks, the Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank, Mr. Francis Shobo, appreciated everyone that turned up for the educative webinar, and reiterated that “FirstBank will continue to embrace emerging FinTech opportunity”.

The 4.0 edition was anchored by Aruoture Oddiri, with assistance from Taiwo Shonekan.

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Buhari: We’ll Not Give Amnesty to Bandits, Terrorists, Others

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President Muhammadu Buhari has ruled out the possibility of granting amnesty to bandits, kidnappers and insurgents in the country.

He said his government would continue to deal decisively with such criminals whom he said constitute a threat to the country and its people.

Mr Buhari stated this on Thursday while declaring open a joint security meeting of Northern State Governors’ Forum, Northern Traditional Rulers Council and delegation from the federal government in Kaduna State.

The president’s stance is coming on the heels of agitations by some northern leaders that repentant bandits be given amnesty.

Prominent amongst those canvassing amnesty for bandits are the Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle, and an Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi.

Lawmakers from Zamfara have also called for amnesty for bandits who have killed and maimed others.

At the meeting in Kaduna, Mr Buhari said it was time to treat criminals as criminals and to stop ethnic profiling.

Represented by his Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, the president said security challenges confronting the nation had slowed down the emancipation of Nigerians from poverty and economic deprivation.

The president disclosed that he had already directed heads of security agencies to develop plans to end criminality in the country.

He said his government would continue to deal with insurgents, bandits and kidnappers.

“I must appreciate the efforts of the 19 Northern States Governors’ Forum for their contribution towards national growth and development, especially in this challenging period in our nation’s being where certain fundamental corporate existence needs to be frankly deliberated upon and actionable resolutions reached,” the president said.

“This meeting is coming at a time when the nation is making steady progress in addressing the many challenges impeding developmental and progress. We are providing critical infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports among others which are critical to economic prosperity of our people as well as opening up economic opportunities for our citizens to pursue legitimate aspirations that grow the economy.

“At the same time, we are confronting the various dimensions of security challenges that continue to slow down the emancipation of our people from poverty and economic deprivation. The Government shall continue to deal with insurgents, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals who constitute a threat to innocent citizens across the country.

“Criminals are criminals and should be dealt with accordingly, without resorting to ethnic profiling. I have already tasked the new Service Chiefs to devise new strategies that will end this ugly situation where the lives of our people continue to be threatened by hoodlums and criminals.

“I expect that at this meeting, your Forum will also discuss and devise ways of building stronger collaboration with the security architecture and the people in defeating criminality across the region and the nation at large.

“It is pertinent to note that the increased realization of our security, democracy and development indices are inextricably linked. Democracy and rule of law promote stability and in turn reinforce the power to assert freedom and economic progress of our people.”

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Ondo Monarchs Urge South West Governors to Cage Killer Herdsmen

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The Ondo State Council of Obas, on Thursday, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to caution his aides who comment on security of the country.

The traditional rulers, who reacted over the comments made by some aides of the President on the order of Akeredolu ejecting the herdsmen from all the forest reserves in the state, said the move was not to chase out the Fulani in the state but to save it from the activities of the bandits.

This was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of meeting of the monarchs in Akure, which was read by a former Chairman of the council and the Olukare of Ikareland, Oba Akadiri Momoh.

The monarchs said, “We are calling on President Buhari to show to the world that he is a father of all irrespective of ethnic affiliation as well as cautioned his aides to exercise restraints on issues that border on insecurity in the country.”

The obas urged “the governors in the South-West region, the South-West caucus in the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly to use constitutional means to rein the rampaging criminals masquerading as herdsmen across the region.”

The state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Charles Titiloye, declared that the state had no plan to send anti-open grazing bill to the state House of Assembly at the moment.

He said what was on ground in the state currently was the order of the governor to be complied with within seven days.

Titiloye said, “I may not be able to reply whether the state is planning to send the anti-grazing bill or not because the governor has given an order and after the seven days ultimatum and there is no compliance, then we shall know what to do next.”

Reacting to the claim by the Northern Elders Forum that the herdsmen had freedom of movement, the commissioner explained that the governor’s order had not restrained anybody’s movement, but to flush out criminal elements among herdsmen in the state.

He said, “We are not restraining any movement. Forests have been turned to hideouts of criminals and in order to identify the real herdsmen and the criminal ones; that is why the order of the governor came.

“We know that after seven days, the criminal ones would not leave the forest reserves; and until then we shall know what step to take next.”

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FG Commences Payment of N30,000 Grant to Taxi, Bus Drivers, Okada Riders

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As the implementation of its Economic Sustainability Plan, ESP, continues, and in furtherance of its commitment to support small businesses to cushion the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government has also launched the transport support track under its MSME Survival Fund schemes for artisans and transporters.

The launch of the transport track last Monday follows the successful take-off of the Artisans’ Support track on October 1. While the Artisans track is under the Survival Fund, the Transport track is a different scheme also under the Fund.

While verified Artisans have started receiving the N30,000 one-time grants, Nigerians operating in the transport business – including Rideshare drivers (Uber, Bolt, etc.), Taxi drivers, Bus drivers, Keke Napep riders, Okada riders, cart pushers etc., now have the opportunity to benefit from the scheme.

The Artisan track is being implemented in three streams, and as of November 25, a total number of 59,000 individual Artisan beneficiaries have been paid across 24 states in Stream 1 and Stream 2 States.

They include FCT, Lagos, Ekiti, Kaduna, Borno, Kano, Bauchi, Anambra, Abia, Rivers, Plateau, Delta, Taraba, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Edo, Ogun, Ondo, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Enugu, Ebonyi.

While the verification process for artisans under Stream 3 states commenced on Monday, November 30. Stream 3 states comprise Akwa-Ibom, Cross-River, Zamfara, Yobe, Sokoto, Nasarawa, Niger, Imo, Oyo, Osun, Jigawa, Gombe and Benue.

Similarly, payment to beneficiaries under the Payroll Support scheme for different categories of MSMEs, ranging from education, hospitality to other sectors, has since commenced.

The payroll support scheme, which is designed to support vulnerable MSMEs, targets supporting 500,000 beneficiaries with payment of up to N50,000 per employee for a period of three months, starting from October. The disbursements to approved Payroll Support beneficiaries commenced on 17th November 2020.

So far, 207,319 individual beneficiaries drawn from 35,837 businesses/MSMEs nationwide have received their first monthly payment from the Survival Fund’s Payroll Support Scheme.

A breakdown of this figure shows that: N30,000 each was paid to 180,196 employees/Beneficiaries; while N50,000 each was paid to 26,353 employees/Beneficiaries. Out of this, 2.6 per cent of beneficiaries are with special needs, while 43 per cent are female employees/beneficiaries.

Under this Artisan Support scheme, a total of 333,000 Artisans and Transport business operators nationwide will get one-time operations grant of N30,000 per beneficiary to reduce the effects of income loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be a total of 9,009 beneficiaries per state for both Artisan and Transport beneficiaries. Of this number per state, there will be a total of 4,505 beneficiaries under the transport scheme, while the remaining 4,504 will be artisan beneficiaries.

For the Transport track, Nigerians are encouraged to apply through their registered Associations to be enumerated, such as the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Keke Riders’ Association, Okada Riders’ Associations and Unions, among others. All schemes are applied to beneficiaries on a first come first serve basis.

State focal persons, project field officers, enumerators and others will work alongside the MSMEs Survival Fund Project Delivery Office to properly identify and ensure that members of the respective associations are paid.

There is also provision for individuals who are members of Associations but will rather apply directly with the enumerators. However, such individual applicants in the transport cluster must show their proof of membership of an association to be enumerated.

Like all the schemes of the Buhari administration to support different categories of Nigerians, these schemes are absolutely free, and the grant will be paid directly to the beneficiary’s account.

Nigerians are encouraged to speak up if anyone tries to charge a fee or subvert this arrangement.

Also, the formalization support scheme (registration of 250,000 new businesses with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)) commenced on the 26th of October, 2020 and the registration by aggregators – CAC registration agents, has since commenced across the 36 states and the FCT. The ongoing scheme will run for a period of 3 months effective from the date of commencement.

The MSME Survival Fund, a component under the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, NESP, is designed to support vulnerable Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in the MSMEs sector. The scheme is estimated to save not less than 1.3 million jobs across the country and specifically impact on over 35,000 individuals per State.

In the implementation of the Transport track the Federal Government is working with representatives of Keke Napep and Okada riders; Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN); representatives of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW); Uber and Bolt drivers, among others.

Laolu Akande
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President
6th December 2020

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